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Next Round Set For RTM/Baron’s South

Earlier this month, the RTM’s P&Z Committee met for 5 hours. Most of the time was spent hearing from 4 petitions against the P&Z’s vote to declare all 22 acres of the Baron’s South property as open space, and 1 in support. The committee also heard from the P&Z and town officials. Public comment began at 11 p.m., and only a few citizens spoke.

Tomorrow (Monday, April 20, 7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium), the committee will hear much more public comment. There will also be summations by the P&Z, and the petitioners. Then the committee goes to work, making its recommendation to the full RTM.

On Wednesday (April 22, 9 a.m., Senior Center parking lot), RTM members make a site visit to the property. The public is invited on the 30-minute walk, but is requested to not ask questions or make comments. The time to talk is tomorrow night.

The South Compo entrance to the Baron's South property.

The South Compo entrance to the Baron’s South property.

The following Tuesday (April 28, 7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium), the full RTM will decide the Baron’s South issue.

RTM member Matthew Mandell — who provided the above information — has
created a website with relevant information. It’s available to the RTM and the public. Click here — and keep following this important discussion.

Soul Cycle Wheels Into Town

I often try to put a cute little spin on these kinds of stories, but this will have to do:

Soul Cycle logoSoulCycle makes its much-anticipated debut in Westport next Thursday (April 23). If I had a nickel for every time someone mentioned how excited they are about this fitness company coming to Compo Acres Shopping Center, I could buy a Maserati.

Well, maybe a really nice racing bike.

There are complimentary classes all day on Thursday and Friday (April 23 and 24). Call 203-683-7685, or click here starting at noon on Monday (April 20) to book a time.

A grand opening celebration is set for Saturday, April 25.

No word yet on when Chipotle opens next door.

A typical Soul Cycle center.

A typical Soul Cycle center.

 

Westport Inn: “We’re Here To Stay”

Remember that 5-story, 200-unit housing complex that was going to replace the Westport Inn?

Not gonna happen.

And to prove that the hotel is here to stay, they’re throwing an open house for the town.

Westporters are invited to stop by on Tuesday, April 28 (5-7 p.m.). You can tour the property, enjoy food from Garelick & Herbs and Bistro B, maybe even win a raffle prize.

The Westport Inn is one of those places we often pass by, and seldom think about (unless we’re entertaining in-laws). Why not see for yourself what’s there?

And while you’re at it, think about what might have been.

(So the Inn can get a sense of numbers, please click here to RSVP.)

The Westport Inn began as The New Englander, in 1960. With BLT's purchase for $14.5 million, it will remain a hotel.

The Westport Inn began as The New Englander, in 1960. With BLT’s purchase for $14.5 million, it will remain a hotel.

Green’s Farms Cell Tower: 1-Year Anniversary Looms

Almost exactly a year ago, “06880” broke the story that AT&T was planning to place a 120-foot cell tower at a Greens Farms Road residence. It would loom above the tree line, not far from Hillspoint Road: a “gateway” intersection leading toward our beaches.

In early June, a “balloon test” showed just how high the tower would soar. A band of protesters watched nearby.

Since then: crickets.

In the intervening months, First Selectman Jim Marpe has heard “nothing directly” from North Atlantic Towers, which would build the structure.

However, Marpe warns, “that doesn’t mean it’s going away. Presumably, they’re still interested. A submission to the Connecticut Siting Council could still show up.”

The cell tower was planned for the house on the left: 92 Greens Farms Road. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

The cell tower was planned for the house on the left: 92 Greens Farms Road. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

Westport has retained a wireless technology consultant, to help if needed. The town is also in contact with major wireless carriers. The idea is to be proactive, not reactive.

Marpe says that State Senator Tony Hwang and State Representative Jonathan Steinberg have been “very helpful.” The legislators have spoken with top-level Connecticut Department of Transportation officials. The DOT controls much of the property near I-95 and the railroad tracks, which could serve as alternative tower sites.

The Greens Farms Road tower is meant to provide better cell service to motorists on I-95 — not necessarily to improve coverage for Westport residents.

A "balloon test" last June showed how high the Greens Farms Road cell tower would be.

A “balloon test” last June showed how high the Greens Farms Road cell tower would be.

Oh My 06880 — Photo Challenge #14

“06880” readers are impressive! It took only a few minutes last Sunday for Jane Nordli and Randy Hammond to identify the photo challenge: a plaque (and nearby sculpture) honoring Jerry Kaiser, at the end of Riverside Avenue by the train station.

(Bonus: We learned all about Jerry, including his role in inviting Martin Luther King to speak at Temple Israel. We found out that the sculpture in his honor is from the frieze at New  York’s old Penn Station. We even heard from Jerry’s nephew, famed journalist Charles Kaiser. To see all that — and the plaque — click here.)

Moving right along, here is this week’s photo challenge — courtesy, as always, from Lynn U. Miller. It’s a view we’ve all seen — a lot. But where?

Oh My 06880 - April 5, 2015 - 2

If you think you know, click “Comments.” May the best (and fastest) man (or woman) win.

 

This Old House: Identified!

The whole point of “06880”‘s “This Old House” series is to help the Westport Historical Society in advance of an upcoming exhibit. They’ll be showing great photos of old homes, to illustrate changes in Westport. 

But some images — taken as part of a 1930s WPA project — are hard to identify.

House #4 — posted 10 days ago — has been confirmed. It’s the handsome home of Birchwood Country Club, visible from Kings Highway South. The back of the photo said “Allen (Bailin). Riverside Avenue.”

This Old House - March 25, 2015

WHS house historian Bob Weingarten explains the delay in confirmation:

I need to apologize to your readers, especially Marc Isaacs; Jill Turner Odice, who agreed with Marc, and Neil Brickley, who wrote that Marc was correct and  I should re-consider this location.

When I first read Marc’s comments [he said it was originally the Josiah Raymond Inn. and was moved to its present location prior to the 1930’s], I reviewed the Connecticut Historic Resources Inventory. It said the house was built in 1835 by Josiah Raymond. The form identified the location as 25 Kings Highway South, also known as The Birchwood Country Club “Clubhouse.”

The Birchwood Country Club House today.

The Birchwood Country Club House today.

I discounted this as the house for 2 reasons. First, on the back of the WPA 1930s photo the words “Riverside Avenue” appeared and there was no indication from the history that the house was moved.

Second, the photo I had on file was of the front of the house. Although the WPA 1930s photo does show the front, this architectural design was prevalent in houses of the Federal period in Westport.  My mistake was not having a visual view of the side of the building.

After hearing from Neil, I visited the site. With an appropriate photo angle I can visually confirm that the Unknown House #4 is the Birchwood Country Club “Clubhouse.”

Looking at the photo you can see that the front porch does have sidelight windows, the side portion of the building has the same structural elements and windows as identified on the WPA 1930s photo. Too many  elements to be a duplicate built house.

Thanks again to Marc Isaacs, Jill Turner Odice and Neil Brickley.

Parks & Rec Commission: “We Heard Public’s Beach Comments Loud And Clear”

A large crowd flooded into Town Hall tonight. A number of Westporters were ready to fight for parts of Compo Beach they believed were threatened: parking on South Beach. Keeping grassy spaces. The skate park.

What they got was Kumbaya.

Parks and Recreation Commission chair Charlie Haberstroh introduced 7 recommendations. None were earth-shattering. All seemed to come directly from raucous town meetings last year.

The basic theme: Less is more.

Here they are:

1.  No changes to South Beach and eastern area parking. 

“We heard the message loud and clear,” Haberstroh said. “It’s important to keep parking near the beach.” He noted that commissioners had parked near the proposed spaces away from the beach, and realized the view was not the same.

No changes will be made to South Beach parking. (Photo/Laurey Tussing)

No changes will be made to South Beach parking. (Photo/Laurey Tussing)

2. No changes to vehicular traffic flow.

The Compo Beach Site Improvement Committee had recommended moving the entrance to across from Bradley Street. Haberstroh said no changes would be made.

Parks and Rec director Stuart McCarthy noted that traffic flow — and safety issues — are the #1 priority for his department. After he spoke, Haberstroh agreed that fixing the current entrance (though not relocating it) could be addressed outside of the master plan.

3.  Create separate pedestrian paths separate from vehicular traffic. 

Haberstroh noted that, as a new grandfather, he feels vulnerable pushing a stroller. Other commissioners added that beach usage has changed; more people are walking than ever before. Extending the boardwalk to the cannons, and on to South Beach, is one way to help ease danger.

Compo Beach: a town jewel, beloved by all.

Compo Beach: a town jewel, beloved by all. Pedestrians don’t always have it easy, however.

4.  Constructing new bathhouses.

The current brick bathhouses were badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. A new structure would meet — or exceed — FEMA flood regulations.

5.  Adding restrooms on South Beach. But no pavilion. New facilities are sorely needed — 2 or 3 “fixtures” per men’s, women’s and family bathrooms, to use the polite term. But there would be no other structures. “They take on a life of their own,” Haberstroh said.

6.  Renovating the skate park, including possible partial private funding. This is also a recommendation that came directly from the fall meeting. The commissioners heard many Westport youngsters loud and clear.

7.  Resurfacing the basketball courts.  That’s a slam dunk.

A few minutes after 8 p.m., public comment began.

There were no catcalls, boos, cheers, whistles or shouts.

It was almost as quiet as the beach in winter.

Everyone loves Compo Beach. (Photo/Stacy Waldman Bass)

Everyone loves Compo Beach. (Photo/Stacy Waldman Bass)

Dan August Helps Kick-Start NFL Careers

At 30, Dan August is a junior executive. He’s just 3 months into his job as head of strategic marketing and planning for the National Football League.

At 25, Michael Sam is an NFL “veteran.” The St. Louis Rams cut him at the end of training camp last summer. He then spent time on the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad before being waived.

Sam would love another shot at the pros. So would guys like Felix Jones, Michael Bush, Darron Thomas, Keith Price and Mike Kafka.

Tomorrow, they get their chance. And they’ll have August — a 2003 Staples graduate and Dartmouth economics major — to thank.

Dan August with New York Giants' defensive tackle Rocky Bernard at the XLVI Super Bowl.

Dan August with New York Giants’ defensive tackle Rocky Bernard at the XLVI Super Bowl.

August — who starred in tennis, not football, at Staples — helped develop the 1st-ever “Veteran Combine.” Set at the Arizona Cardinals’ training site in Tempe, it brings together 100 free agents and scouts from all 32 NFL teams.

August came up with the idea. He refined it with 2 other young NFL staffers. Commissioner Roger Goodell approved it. Then came buy-in from players, agents and team officials.

August — who was a Morgan Stanley investment banker before joining the NFL in 2008 — told Bloomberg Business that the Veteran Combine not only helps former players. It’s also efficient for teams — just like the Scouting Combine for college athletes.

August hopes it’s good for fans too. The NFL Network broadcasts a 1-hour special tomorrow (Sunday, March 22, 8 p.m.) to test interest.

(To read more on August and the Veteran Combine from Bloomberg Business, click here.)

For 20 Years, Project Return Has Gone To the Birds

Every local non-profit chases the same dollars. Each organization tries to come up with a unique fundraiser. But even in uber-clever Westport, it’s not easy.

Twenty years ago, Project Return created one that’s for the birds. It’s still flying high.

A beautiful birdhouse, designed and built by Miggs Burroughs.

A beautiful birdhouse, designed and built by Miggs Burroughs.

The idea is simple: a Birdhouse Auction. Artists build and donate special birdhouses. They’re displayed at a gala, then sold to the highest bidder. Winners get spectacular, one-of-a-kind birdhouses.

Project Return — the North Compo Road home for teenage girls and young women in crisis — wins too. Some of the birdhouses fetch over $10,000.

Miggs Burroughs has built birdhouses every year since the 1st auction, 20 years ago.

His 1st one was done on a lark (ho ho). He didn’t know much about Project Return, but liked the idea. That year, he constructed a “typical” birdhouse. Inside, a woman sat sadly on a chair. Burroughs added clipped “wings” to the figure — a metaphor for girls’ lives before they move into Project Return.

Once he saw how much the organization helped — and realized how much fun it is to create a birdhouse — he was hooked.

“I’m not a decorative artist,” Burroughs claims. “Some people” — among the more than 100 artists each year — “do amazing things with shells and buttons.”

A lenticular birdhouse, by Miggs Burroughs.

A lenticular birdhouse, by Miggs Burroughs.

So Burroughs’ birdhouses now include his specialty: lenticular photos. This year, he’s incorporated a 2-foot-high wooden lantern — which he won, interestingly, in a raffle at last year’s pre-auction Birdhouse Stroll, when over 50 local businesses display birdhouses in their windows.

Each of the lantern’s 4 windows includes a girl’s face. As you shift your gaze, the faces morph into birds. You have to see it to get the full effect — just as you should see all the different birdhouses.

Hans Wilhelm has also been involved from the start. After designing many birdhouses, he now draws each year’s special invitation.

The birds on those drawings are made into styrofoam figures, and grace the Project Return garden.

“I love the birdhouse concept,” Wilhelm says. “It puts creativity to good use. Everyone has fun. And Project Return is a group of wonderful, dedicated people.”

Hans Wilhelm and his wife, with some of his whimsical creations. (Photo/Miggs Burroughs)

Hans Wilhelm and his wife, with some of his whimsical creations. (Photo/Miggs Burroughs)

This year’s Birdhouse Auction — set for Friday, March 27 (7 p.m., Rolling Hills Country Club, Wilton) — includes an astonishing variety of materials: birch bark, feathers, stained glass, ceramics, wood, metal, 3D printing. The items are traditional and contemporary, whimsical and contemplative, decorative and practical, designed for outdoor and indoor use.

The auction also includes paintings, vases, serving bowls, candlesticks, shadow boxes, lamps and more. There’s a buffet, martini bar, and music from DNR.

The free Birdhouse Stroll takes place Sunday, March 8 (2-4 p.m.) downtown, with a kickoff reception at Eileen Fisher. It ends at the Westport Historical Society, with refreshments by DavidsTea, Saugatuck Sweets and Sono Bakery, plus a raffle and prizes.

Added this year is another free event: a Birdhouse Retrospective. Set for the Westport Arts Center on Thursday, March 19 (6-8 p.m.), it’s a look back at 20 years of birdhouses and artwork.

Check out 1, 2 or all 3 events. Or go see some birdhouses on display in Max’s Art Supplies window. They’re there just as they’ve always been, even though Max’s closed last year. (Thanks, Shirley Mellor!)

Say a little birdie sent you.

(Tickets for the Birdhouse Gala on Friday, March 27 are $125 through March 8; $150 thereafter. To purchase tickets, or for more information. visit www.projectreturnct.org.) 

(Design by Hans Wilhelm)

(Design by Hans Wilhelm)

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Lawrence: She’s What Lynsey Addario Does

Jennifer Lawrence has beaten out Reese Witherspoon and Natalie Portman for the chance to be Lynsey Addario.

That’s because Steven Spielberg outbid George Clooney — and other big names — to snag the film rights to the Westport photojournalist’s memoirIt’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War.

Media reports say that Warner Bros is finalizing a big-ticket deal. The bidding war broke out after the New York Times Magazine excerpted compelling sections of what quickly became a best-seller. Addario details her work in combat zones around the world, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Darfur and the Congo — and the pregnancy that followed.

According to the Daily Mail, Addario met personally with some of the bidders. They were amazed by her story.

Sometime in the future, movie-goers around the world will be too.

Separated at birth? Jennifer Lawrence and Lysney Addario.

Separated at birth? Jennifer Lawrence and Lynsey Addario.